Subject Matter Expert or “Pigeon-holed?”

pigeonGone are the days of old-fashioned job security where you could get into a “safe” industry or stay somewhere long enough that you would never have to worry about being laid-off, downsized or becoming obsolete. In the new economy of disruption, the only job security that exists anymore, is demanding you consistently make yourself valuable and marketable in the job market.

Getting “pigeon-holed” is a phrase used for becoming so specific in your expertise that it would be challenging to fit in anywhere else. Subject matter expertise is vital for job security, but we must take on the responsibility ourselves to leverage our primary skills set to broaden our experience.

Here Are the Top 3 Ways to Avoid Getting Career Pigeon-holed While Maintaining Your Expertise

Leverage your subject matter expertise for exposure. If you are the “go-to” guy/gal for an expertise, use that as leverage to get into meetings and present the concepts, instead of just handing off your knowledge or sending it to be read. It might be a good idea to work on your presentation skills. When you are recognized for presentation and communication capabilities, your career options are almost limitless because you are branding yourself. This is also a good time to convey your ability to understand the business as a big picture and recommend solutions from the perspective of your expertise.

Find the right vehicle. If you are not in a company that values your contributions or takes your counsel, you might as well take a moped down the interstate. Make sure you scout companies thoroughly not just on sites like Glassdoor but speak to people who work there. If your current employer does not place a priority on your input, then it is time to update your resume and get your branding in gear.

If you don’t do it now, you will be paying for it later. Over the last 25 years and two recessions I have witnessed people either slip into a comfort zone or allow themselves to be convinced it will never happen to them.

Grow more branches than roots. Yes, it is important to stay current on your expertise but pay attention to other areas and disciplines that your subject matter affects and learn about them. The more you know about how what you do affects others and how to solve their problems, the more valuable you will be. The more you learn about industries and businesses that are a direct effect of your expertise and reach out to people in that arena, the more likely you will NOT be the person left without a chair, when the music stops in the economical game of musical chairs. As a matter of fact, you will be the one everyone wants to hire regardless of the economic climate.

Take advantage of the new economy of disruption! Investigate every opportunity that comes your way and make sure you are optimized for your brand with your network. This is easier to do now more than ever with LinkedIn. You don’t even have to be on the job market to allow your dream job to find you. This will afford you choices. Choice is power!



Saundra Botts

Saundra Botts

Saundra is an ExecuNet Career Strategist and Career Coach. Working 1:1 with high-level senior executives, Saundra provides strategic guidance and coaching to help ExecuNet members land their next great opportunity. This includes uncovering their unique personal value proposition and defining competitive differentiators to advance their careers. Additionally, she provides detailed feedback for improving a personal marketing collateral—well beyond their résumé. Leveraging her expertise, Saundra guides executives through the entire process from entering the job market, which for most is their first time, identifying the path to success, to onboarding with their new company and beyond to create job security.

Saundra is known for “opening doors” and has also facilitated Job Search and Transition Workshops for universities, FENG (Financial Executive Networking Group), and various executive leadership groups. Her depth of experience includes has over 15 years in Retained Search and contingency placement within corporate accounting and finance sector with First Call Search, Dubin & Lee and WinterWyman Search. Saundra has consulted with clients, ranging from start-ups to multi-billion-dollar conglomerates. She has worked with $12 billion companies building accounting and finance teams, succession planning, and hiring, as well as filling key positions at many medium-sized, publicly-traded companies; non-profits; and universities in Boston, Miami and Los Angeles. ExecuNet Career Strategist and Career Coach.

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